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Cachorro (Bear Cub)

(2004) ** 1/2 Unrated
93 min. TLA Releasing. Director: Miguel Albaladejo. Cast: Jose Luis Garcia Perez, David Castillo, Empar Ferrer, Elvira Lindo, Diana Cerezo.

The Spanish dramedy Bear Cub tells the story of Pedro, a gay Madrid dentist who slows down his swinging ways to care for his sister's son, Bernardo. On paper, Bear Cub sounds like a sickly sweet, conventional story of family values redemption, but credit director Miguel Albaladejo for, first, avoiding conventional glamour by casting the gay characters as "bears"—that is, heavyset, hairy gay men—and not shying from their happy pursuit of sex.

The dramatic arc of the film is in no way moralistic, though the plot eventually turns to a custody battle. Despite the presence of the boy, Pedro rejects an offer to settle down with one of his boyfriends and continues to cruise and take the occasional recreational drug. The boy's estranged grandmother complicates matters with her needy attempts to bond with the boy and drive a wedge between him and his uncle, but Albaladejo resists painting her as a stock villain.

The pace is poky and the ending does succumb to easy sentiment, but actors José Luis García Pérez, as Pedro, and David Castillo, notably realistic in the part of the boy, elevate the film with their genuine warmth. The script--credited to Albaladejo and Salvador Garcia—resolves clumsily by tying reassuring knots in the plotline and pointlessly teasing Bernardo's sexual orientation one last time. Slight but sweet, the off-the-beaten path Bear Cub is a step in the right direction for gay cinema.

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